Friday, April 8, 2022


Settling the States by Cora Leland

"Cooking over campfires takes practice." (Cora Leland's earliest Nebraska settler) 

Baking kettles, like the one above, were essential to households stretching across the eastern seaboard (1700-1800) for cooking in ahses or hanging in fireplaces. Many of the colonists lived near streams and rivers in wooded areas, where a wealth of creatures continued to live as they had before the colonists had arrived.

Woodchuck, Western New York area

Living in the freedom and prosperity of the new world, America, became so important that people were willing to accept lengthy periods of indentured servitude in exchange for passage money.  (1600-1800). 

But the costs for transporting people decreased as newcomers -- an important source of labor -- clamored for tickets.  (This time was known as the age of mass migration from Europe(1850-1900).)

One nation, among many, was Ireland, where people fled famines and unemployment.  An earlier wave of Irish people had come from northern Ireland: they were English-speakers who were skilled and quickly adapted.  Many, like my great aunts, cheerfully adapted and prospered.

But the next waves of people arrived with no skills and spoke no English. (My family's earliest Irish relatives came from impoverished Galway and they'd suffered from all the changes.).Most Irish people in this group spoke only Gaelicthough a few were trained to work as blacksmiths and other jobs needed for establishing a nation. 

A baby tender (1820)

A baby tender was used by families as the women went about their daily chores, just as Native American women wore a cradle board for their baby. 

Native American Cradleboard

While some parts of the continent were excellent farming country and millions vied for these places, while others, like the beautiful lands of Dakota Territory, were not easily turned into breadbaskets, like the plains were.

In 1862, farms and ranches were offered, almost for nothing, as homesteads from the government and later from railroad companies.  When the nation filled up, eventually the government carved away more of its acres.

As one man expressed it,  living with his wife and family in a one room leaky cabin with no land to farm was a life he'd gladly exchange for a good plot in Oklahoma territory.  He, along with 100,000 others, joined the Oklahoma Land Rush on Sept. 16, 1893.  

The world was being gripped by a terrible economic recession, and a chance like this seemed wonderful. (My older sister married a man whose family 'rushed' to 160 free acres of rich land, and generations have been full-time farmers on what became their two sections of farm land.) 

This was the first of Oklahoma's four 'land runs'. (Plots between Kansas and northern Oklahoma were offered separately). They also used closed bid auctions. Altogether, Oklahoma gave away two million acres of land.

One minute before the start: Oklahoma Land Rush

Other places in the country offered their land to encourage settlers. Georgia, for example, held seven lotteries for farm land and one lottery for 'gold rush' land.  The gold rush in Georgia (by 1832, when the land was offered) had almost ended, and there was no guarantee that these plots would hold gold.

Settlers, as you'd imagine, wore clothes their mothers and sisters had sewn by hand; men's work pants could be bought in town, but not always their shirts, so the ladies made them, too. Fashionable dresses with bustles and trains were probably not necessary among those generations.


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